Editorial note: Writing this AdoreTheLord blog thread on Latino worship, I went back and pulled something written on our missionary blog back in 2011…
Mushy warning: This blog may get real, REAL sappy… but here goes.
I’m sitting here, irritating the neighbors with loud worship music… Marcos Witt’s new CD celebrating his 25th year in worship ministry is blasting, lifting up the songs that the Lord gave Marcos as part of the most amazing cultural revolution in the Church of the last 50 years… the Latino worship movement… American churches have NO idea…
I’m gushing because this CD is a blast of memories for me of the goodness of God in our 20+ years in Latin America, and my becoming a Latino Christian in my heart…
When God ‘called’ us to missions back in the 80’s, we were very involved in Christian music. Guitar player, concerts, recordings… stage management, production, stage-crew… So when God calls us to Mexico in 1991… it looked like I was going to have to give up the whole ‘music thing’ to serve.
Little did I know that God has a huge, HUGE sense of humor, and was opening the door for us to experience one of the most amazing worship movements of the last century on the planet from Ground Zero.
Our first week in Juarez, 1991, in the beat-up YWAM base, this guy bags on our door… “Hey, wanna go to Vino Nuevo for a worship concert with this guy called Marcos?” “Hey, sure” We had NO idea that we were entering history… that night was the live recording of Marcos Witt (and major choir), the ‘Te Exaltamos’ project which went on to be one of the fundamental ‘must learn and know’ group of songs that the Lord was using to equip the Latino church with a new song and a new voice in worship. We were there, learning. After the gig, I met this crazy guy Marcos that night; he spoke flawless Spanish and English… 100% consumed with worshipping God…
[I still joke that if you listen close, you can hear us singing on that recording…]
We move to Tijuana in early 1992, and what church do we end up at? Same one a dozen pro musicians and recording/sound tekkies who tour/record/work with Marcos are a big part. They drew us in to their circle.
That Mexican church became our home for a decade, and that circle of friends meant we were very involved in the Latino worship world, centered around the worshipping community there. They are now all life-long friends. Yep, Marcos regularly came through town, and we backed him when he would end his message with worship (yes, mom, I’ve backed Marcos Witt). There were ‘Noches de Celebracion con Marcos Witt y su Grupo’ that we helped coordinate and manage. Some of the band stayed at our house. We played music together. Lori crafted a huge, artsy ‘Jesus’ banner as a concert back-drop; it ended being taken around Mexico. I stage-managed events around Baja. We still help out at similar ‘Noches de Celebracion’… 22,000-people worshipping in the arena is quite something…
I am incredibly grateful to Marcos. He helped teach me Spanish. With each recording and new song, I had to learn new words, new phrases and new intonations. Sometimes it was ‘have to’, because the release of a Marcos Witt recording was a major event in the Latino church. We all had to learn every word and musical chord ‘by heart’, because those songs would become the ‘worship song vernacular’ wherever we would play or be the ‘lead worshippers’. Marcos also taught me a lot on leading Mexican Latinos into a place of worship.
I will never forget when we (the ‘Grupo de Alabanza’) were huddled around a boom-box, getting the first listen to the new song “Temprano Yo Te Buscare” (Early Will I Seek You)… Marcos had sent us a pre-release copy. We did that song every service for months… not because we were enamoured with the new ditty, but because every time we did the opening licks, the Holy Spirit would show up in power and do mighty things in the congregation… one of the services had all 650 people jammed in the church on their knees, hands in the air… that song went for about a half-hour… glorious!!
While on outreach, I was asked to lead part of the song-time in a village church on the coast of Columbia. I borrowed a guitar, and told the congregation that I would teach them a new song. Imagine my surprise when they all loudly joined in, knowing the song well. ‘How is this so?’ I wondered (a little humbled). This Marcos Witt song only came out a few months ago, and this is a verrrry remote village! After the service, as we ate empenadas, the pastor recounted how most of the congregation traveled over 12 hours by bus to the largest soccer stadium in Columbia last month for a night of worship with ‘Hermano Marcos’… then back… “we’ve been singing that song ever since.”
Somewhere along the way, I learned that worshipping the Lord as a Latino (context, culture, language, emotion, focus, style, intensity…) was a completely different experience than I knew as a Westerner from the mid-West US. It began to spill into my private worship, into my guitar playing, into my thinking… and my acts of worship, both word and deed. Worshipping God became different, WAY more intense. Now, I’m part Latino, adopted by Jesus into the Latino community, and worship for me is forever different.
The songs coming from Marcos Witt became a major part of the soundtrack of my spiritual journey. I can’t even count the times I’ve been kneeling, praying, weeping, singing the familiar “Renuevame, Señor Jesus, ya no quiero ser igual…” (Renew me, Lord Jesus, I definitely don’t want to be the same anymore…).
I’ll never forget eating tacos with Marcos on a street-corner in Ensenada, talking ‘worship leader talk’, about how our private lives and prayer-closet devotions of worship will always be the watermark, and the public celebrations only (only!) flow from that… you only end up ministering what you are actually walking in… God is looking for sold-out worshippers…
Feliz aniversario, hermano Marcos. Gracias por todos de tus fuerzas en la musica… era un bendicion a mi, y miliones de nosotros. Thanks for being my teacher and example. Thanks for the songs, the passion, the focus, the willingness to ‘leave it all out on the field’ and showing me that bushes burning with God-worship never run out of fuel.
You’ll have to forgive me, I want to sing along with the CD right here… “Hermoso eres, mi Señor… “
written by crisbaj
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